March 4, 2008

La Fête du Fromage - From North and South

We tasted two cheeses this week. One that was produced up north in the enchanting Loire Valley and the other from the stunning and aromatic Mediterranean scrublands.

Voilà, Sainte-Maure de Touraine and la Maquisarde.

I've been waiting ages to try one of France's best loved goat cheeses from the Loire Valley, Sainte-Maure de Touraine. It is easily recognizable by its long, cylindrical shape and the piece of straw piercing its center. Historically, the straw was placed there to protect the young cheese from falling to pieces during handling.

Sainte-Maure is a striking cheese - a snowy, white interior surrounded by a wrinkled, grey-black crust. It has a lovely, walnut aroma and mild and nutty flavor that is perfectly balanced. The texture is dense and creamy. This is a (dare I say it?) very seductive cheese.

The production of Sainte-Maure de Touraine can be either fermier, coopérative or artisinal. It was awarded AOC status in 1990 and is available to enjoy any time of the year.
White wines such as Vouvray, Sancerre or Chablis or a red from the Loire such as Chinon are perfect matches for this cheese.

The scrub lands of the region where we live, called la garrigue, are heavily perfumed with wild thyme, juniper, lavender and rosemary. The cheese from this region has subtle hints of these wonderful aromas, creating a unique tasting experience.

I bought a piece of unpasteurized cow's milk cheese called la Maquisarde at the Olonzac market last Tuesday. It is produced at a small farm near Minerve, the Coopérative Cravirola, who also made the incredible Tomme de Maquis that we tasted a couple of weeks ago.

The flavor seemed young and underdeveloped with too much tanginess, and it had a heady, barnyard aroma that was rather unpleasant. Usually, smelly cheeses don't bother me but this time it did. Compared to the Tomme de Maquis, la Maquisarde was a disappointment. I definitely expected to enjoy this cheese more.
Oh well... They also make a Camembert that I want to try.
We had a glass of local, Minervois red with this cheese.

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Anonymous said...

At first glance, I thought the first picture was a close up of a rope. :-)

I adore goat cheese of any kind, but I find the piece of straw in the middle irritating.

sidenote: I don't feel like working today. It is almost 8am and I really can't focus. So many other fun things to think about. :-)

Anonymous said...

I am green with cheese envy....

Danielle said...

Ooh la la! Ces fromages sont magnifiques!

I can smell them from here!

Jennifer said...

I just pulled the piece of straw out before slicing into it.
I can imagine that your thoughts are elsewhere!

Do you have access to any good cheese shops? Many of them ship. Also, has a lot of French cheeses that you could order.
Then you wouldn't be turning green! :)

well, one of them was!

Betty Carlson said...

I used to live near Ste Maure. It's a great goat's cheese -- rather difficult for me to find here, except in supermarket versions which I avoid.